A Local Plan for York – Mission Impossible?

UPDATE – New representations have now been made by the York Council to the Planning Inspector. They can be viewed by clicking here

The latest exchange of correspondence, between planning inspectors appointed by the government and the City of York Council, on the proposed “Local Plan” simply serves to highlight how difficult it is to produce a robust proposal which can stand the test of time.

Controversial plan was to have been determined in February 2019.

The latest exchange concerns apparent lack of justification for the Green Belt boundaries. These heavily influence the size of the area allocated for new housing in the City.

It is not a new argument.

It is nearly 20 years since York embarked on an attempt to update its strategic plan. It came close to success in 2011 when a proposal was ready to be sent off to the planning inspectorate.

Of the five drafts that have seen the light of day, this was perhaps the one which achieved the broadest consensus. It envisaged building an additional 575 homes in the City each year for 30 years

In the main it was some developers and the political fringe who objected to it.

 A change of political control saw an inexperienced Labour administration adopt a new proposal which would have seen the City increase in size by 25%. The stance contributed to them being booted out of office 4 years later.

Another attempt was made but was again jeopardised by the unexpected (in this case the decision to close barracks in the City).

It would be 2019 before the revised plan was ready to be submitted.

It still included a higher growth rate for housing than was necessary to sustain the existing City. It anticipated large amounts of “inward migration” to fill the extra jobs and homes that were envisaged. But again, changing government policies, unstable population growth forecasts and then coronavirus combined to halt the final “examination in public” part of the process.

Now the inspector wants the Council to withdraw its proposals and start again. That would mean more delay, plus expenditure of another £x million for taxpayers with no guarantee that a plan would be approved at the end of the process.

Planning inspectors are paid a fee of around £1000 a day! Some may feel that they have a vested interest in prevarication

The Council has opted to try to provide more information to move things forward.

There are vested interests at work for whom delays are an advantage.  

Lack of a strategic blueprint means that developers can chance their arm by submitting planning applications on wholly unsuitable sites in the Green Belt. Schemes at Moor Lane and Boroughbridge Road are recent examples.

Existing York Green Belt boundaries.

Getting a Local Plan adopted is pretty much impossible given the current high level of central government interference.

The City needs to be able to get on and determine its own future. The ballot box provides a safety net against the adoption of extreme policies.

What will happen, before the detached hand of a North Yorkshire Mayor tries to seize the reins of power, remains to be seen.

Hopefully the Council and the planning inspector will now find a way to move forward more quickly.

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